Driverless cars are the news media's darlings, promising commuters an extra hour's sleep as they whiz down the world's highways. Yet technologies that assist your ride rather than control it will be part of our automotive experience long before this robot-chauffeured vision comes to fruition. Onboard sensors such as backup cameras already extend our senses by allowing us to observe the world directly; now, vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies—collectively known as "V2X"—stand poised for widespread adoption, appearing in new-model cars as early as 2016, and they are likely to be required eventually, despite current consumer fears.
Like back-up cams, V2X technologies promise safety advantages even if fully driverless cars never become a reality. A report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in August posited that two specific V2V applications would prevent more than 500,000 crashes and 1,000 deaths per year in the U.S.: "Intersection Movement Assist" (IMA), which warns of cross-traffic at intersections, and "Left Turn Assist" (LTA), which watches for traffic approaching from the opposite direction when making a left turn. Other anticipated V2V applications could include collision avoidance in stop-and-go traffic and at highway speeds; speed maximization (and gas savings) for signals and traffic, and parking assistance.
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